Born in a barn in 1909, Leo Fender seems an unlikely father of rock ’n’ roll. But as the man whose company perfected the solid-body electric guitar, his contribution to contemporary music cannot be overstated. Just take a look at the albums whose musicians thought enough of their Fender guitar to put it on the cover: Eric Clapton’s "Layla," Bruce Springsteen’s "Born To Run," Jeff Beck’s "Wired," The Pretenders’s (Chrissie Hynde) "Get Close," Bonnie Raitt’s "Nick of Time." The list of influential artists who play a Fender is just about endless.

Fender’s first solid-body electric guitar was introduced in 1950. It debuted as the one-pickup Esquire before the name of the two-pickup model was changed to Broadcaster. But Gretsch was already using the name Broadkaster on some of its instruments, so the name was changed again.

Between names, the company made the most of its remaining Fender Broadcaster decals by cutting off the word Broadcaster so that only the Fender brand made it onto the guitar’s headstock. Today, collectors call these guitars Nocasters. Only about 60 Nocasters were made, which makes them extremely collectible, but by April of 1951 the guitar would finally get a name that would stick, the Telecaster.

The Stratocaster came next in 1954. Unlike the Telecaster, whose ash body was outlined with rib-digging 45-degree edges, the Strat had a sculpted body that fit players like a glove. Three pickups gave the instrument unprecedented tonal range, as did a vibrato bar that would bend the guitar’s strings when pressed. And instead of the Telecaster’s blond, natural-wood finish, the Strat was offered in a number of colors, including the iconic sunburst (golden-yellow in the middle fading to black on the outside).

Solid-body electric bass guitars were also a Fender innovation. The Precision bass was introduced in 1951. It had a headstock that was virtually identical to that of the Telecaster and a body that turned out to be a preview of the 1954 Strat. By 1957, the Precision’s headstock had been redesigned to mirror the Stratocaster’s, and that version of the bass remains largely unchanged today. The Jazz Bass was added to the low-octave lineup in 1960, and a six-string bass was offered in 1961.

Fender launched two other major guitar lines in the 1950s. The first of these was a pair of low-cost models, the Duo-Sonic and the Musicmaster, both of which were introduced in 1956. These guitars were for kids who wanted to learn how to play without having to shell out the big bucks for a Stratocaster ($274.50 for a Strat versus $119.50 for a Musicmaster). The other initiative was a high-end guitar called the Jazzmaster, which retailed at the time for $329.50. It had a rosewood fingerboard on the standard maple neck, and switches that let the guitarist bounce between rhythm and lead sounds.

In 1962, Fender introduced the Jaguar, which combined a Jazzmaster body with a Stratocaster head. The Mustang, an update of the Duo-Sonic, was added in 1964. Years later, Nirvana...

But the 1960s are best known as the decade when Jimi Hendrix did things to his Stratocaster that nobody had thought possible, from setting it on fire to playing wailing, psychedelic versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Alas for Fender, it was also the decade that the company was sold to CBS—for Fender purists, the years 1965 to 1985 are like a 20-year musical drought.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Fender Standard Telecaster Electric GuitarVtg Silverface Fender Bandmaster Guitar Amplifier A33473 Project Restore Ab763Fender American Special Precision BassFender Vintage Mexico Mim 50s Ri Road Worn Telecaster,tele Body Nitro,esquireFender Telecaster Thinline Loaded Body2004 50th Anniversary Usa Fender Stratocaster BodyFender Pedal Steel Guitar - 60's VintageFender 1960 Stratocaster Neck Pre-cbs Slab Updated Elliot Mechanic?Vintage Fender Blender Octave Fuzz Pedal W/ Original Box! Good Working ConditionVintage 1977 Usa Fender P Precision Bass Guitar, Vintage Blonde - Ser #s7477923 1969 Fender Telecaster Rosewood Electric Guitar 1968Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster 1961 Time Machine - 2016 Model - Serial Cz528339Vintage Fender Precision Bass Guitar Made In Usa In 1968Fender 1963 Telecaster Relic Electric Guitar*custom Shop*2016*aged BlackFender Custom Shop Stratocaster 1961 Time Machine - 2016 Model - Serial Cz528339Vintage 1978 Fender Usa Stratocaster, Antigua Sunburst - No ReserveUsed - Fender Telecaster Thinline Electric Guitar In Fender Hard CaseFender Usa Custom Shop Stratocaster Guitar Custom Classic 2008 Mint/unplayedFender Custom Deluxe Relic Stratocaster*custom Shop*s1 Switching*n3 Pickups*2016Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition Hs Relic Stratocaster*aged White Blonde*2016 Fender Telecaster Custom Shop 60's Classic 2016 Relic Blue SparkleFender 1963 Esquire Journeyman Relic Electric Guitar*custom Shop*surf Green*2016Used Fender Custom Shop Namm '52 Telecaster Tele Hs Aged Black Natural BlondeFender Custom Shop Custom Classic Jazz Bass W/ Ohsc1979 Fender Precision Bass, Cbs Fullerton 100% Original 79 Fender P Bass 1978 Fender Stratocaster AntiguaFender 1960 Strat Super Relic -3 Tone Sunburst Custom Shop John Cruz StampedFender Custom Shop Stratocaster 1961 Time Machine - 2016 Model - Serial Cz528339Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster 1961 Time Machine - 2016 Model - Serial Cz5283391976 Fender Telecaster CustomFender American 72 Telecaster Sunburst1982 Fender "smith Strat" - Sienna Sunburst Ash Body Hardtail1966 Fender Guitar - Musicmaster W/ohsc. Starman Mustang Duo Jag-stang​ JaguarFender Jimi Hendrix Tribute Stratocaster Ambidextrous Rare Usa 2012 Fender Fsr American St Lipstick Stratocaster Electric Guitar MintLimited Edition 1952 Fender Telecaster 60th Anniversary $1 No Reserve Fender Telecaster American Deluxe Electric GuitarFender Stratocaster Stevie Ray Vaughan Guitar Srv Fender Standard Precision 5 String Bass Made In Usa ���� Fender American Professional Stratocaster*sienna Sunburst*ash Body*2016*mint2012 Fender American Standard Jazz Bass BlueFender Stratocaster American Standard Electric GuitarFender American Jazz Bass*2000*hot Rod Red*ohsc*no Reserve*Fender American Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar*40th Anniversary*1994*Fender Strat Plus Usa 1997 Excellent Condition!!! Sounds/plays Amazing2004 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster Hss 50th Anniversary Natural/rosewoodFender Custom Shop Master Built 5 String Fret Less Bass. 1998 One Of A KindFender American Deluxe Stratocaster Electric Guitar*2013*mint*ohsc*burgundy Mist1990s Usa American Standard Fender Stratocaster Natural Guitar + Hardcase Fender Supersonic 22 1966 Vintage Fender Coronado Ii Guitar And CaseFender Custom Shop Classic Strat Neck - 2001 - W/ Stgrd Tuners -great Condition.1963 Fender Jaguar Neck Pre Cbs Guitar 1964 Vintage Clay Dots1997 Fender Tobacco Sunburst 6-string Stratocaster Deluxe W/ Locking TunersFender American Stratocaster Fender American Deluxe Jazz Electric Bass GuitarFender Super-sonic Guitar2015 Fender Dee Dee Ramone Precision Bass Olympic White W/ Maple FretboardFender Japan Jaguar Special H&h Black Electric GuitarFender Usa Strat (cool 70s Headstk) W/locking Tuners, Graphtech Saddles, & Hsc